Lemont’s Emily Durham was an MVP foul ball shagger for the first five innings of Thursday’s 5-4 South Suburban Blue victory over visiting Tinley Park.
She was an even better fireman during the final two.
The Indians senior was pretty much lights out after Tinley Park rallied dramatically from a 5-0 deficit, retiring all five batters she faced. Truthfully, though, she could have shared the save with shortstop Rylie Jay.
Tinley Park (6-2, 4-1), which struggled mightily against Lemont starter Lauren Young, sprang to life in the top of the sixth with consecutive singles by Megan Laib, Sam Alberto, Annalise Scott and Alex Laphen. After Lauren Buckwalter walked and Kaylee Saavedra singled, it was suddenly a 5-3 proposition, with the bases loaded and nobody out.
Lemont coach Christine Traina brought in Durham, and Tinley coach Wendy Podbielniak sent up pinch-hitter Sarah Williams.
Mayhem ensued a few pitches later, when a high fastball by Durham got away from catcher Lauren May. The runners broke, with Laphen sliding in safe as the throw back to the plate skittered loose.
Buckwalter, rounding third, broke briefly for home as well. Jay, seemingly out of nowhere, shot forward to chase down the ball, froze Buckwalter and nailed her with a throw as she tried to dive back into the bag.
“I heard the [third base] coach say, ‘Go! Go! Go!’” Jay said. “Then I saw the ball come to me and I knew right away to just go three. I knew [Mary Durkin] would be there to catch the ball and tag her. Teamwork.”
Durham then struck out Williams and got Kate Sebastian on a bouncer back to the circle. She retired the Titans in order in the seventh to lock it up.
“I like being under pressure. I think I do better,” Durham said of her relief role. “I like starting and going to the distance, but I like coming in and helping my team out when Lauren gets in a struggle. I like her doing the same for me.”
Lemont (10-3, 5-2) scored all of its runs in a very shaky first two innings defensively by Tinley. Elaina Latz and May (3-for-3) had singles and Jay crushed a big two-run double, but the Titans were their own worst enemies by making three errors in the first inning and another in the second.
Scott struck out five and shut out the Indians over the next four innings, but the damage was already done.
“That was terrible,” Podbielniak said. “And the reason why it was terrible was because mentally when they came off the bus they were not prepared at all. We told them yesterday at practice, we’re all in the same boat with going inside, playing, then not playing for days.
“There are no excuses for that. It’s the team that is the mentally the toughest that can endure that and get back in a rhythm and play. That’s just the way it is. Mentally, we are not tough enough, and we need to get tougher that way.”